The Art of Ageing Sneakers
In recent years vintage fashion of all types and times has made its way back into our closets one way or another. Cases in point: pre-worn Carhartt jackets and Levi’s jeans have become prized for their beautiful patinas and natural fades. Now sneakerheads are also seeking out styles that feature subtle imperfections, lending the kicks with a beauty that only comes with time.
For most sneakerheads, nothing beats the feeling of breaking out a box-fresh pair of kicks and many will do whatever they can to avoid getting scuffs, creases, and discoloring that comes with day-to-day wear.
But over the past year, there has been a growing number of sneaker enthusiasts who are intentionally customizing new sneakers to make them look like old beaters.
Much of this shift in aesthetics falls in line with the growing demand for archive and nostalgia with consumers now coveting aged and worn, over new and clean. In an era where everyone wants to fit in, vintage style gives one the opportunity to stand out.
People who are into this,order new shoes and have them delivered directly to their booked designers. However, how exactly each one works remains largely under wraps. A few use laces and crepe stainers while others hint at more tedious tasks: reshaping the shoe, flattening the heels, or adding new elements (like stitching or tags).
The Japanese philosophy of Wabi-Sabi plays a huge factor in the art of ageing sneakers. For those who aren’t familiar, Wabi-Sabi is the philosophy of accepting and appreciating the imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete flaws in nature. It represents a comprehensive Japanese worldview or aesthetic centered on transience and gives the particular art a human element and character.
For example "dude your mom is totally Wabi-Sabi"
One of the names driving the look is NYC-based Philip Leyesa who makes retro jordans look like they dropped in the 80s.
Philip Leyesa via StockX
Leyesa started recreating his pairs of Jordans 5’s that weren’t wearable, mixed them with a few dyes to color-match the yellow netting and sole, and then transferred the authentic vintage look to his 2020 pairs. His process involves using clever techniques to stain soles yellow, distress toe boxes, and create aged and cracked uppers.
“I use hand stitching techniques which don’t always come out perfect and that’s okay because it gives it that human flaw to make it feel “real” in a way that a machine couldn’t do,” he told StockX.
Names like Daniel Arsham, commissioned him to give his Dior Air Jordan 1’s the aged treatment.
The Dior Air Jordan 1’s of Daniel Arsham is one of the most remarkable collaborations and were masterfully corroded to look as if they've arrived from a storage closet in a distant future.
The interest around this neo-vintage style has continued to grow significantly over the past year with more and more names experimenting with similar techniques namely, Huy Lee, Eric Johanes and Andrew Chiou.
Even brands are catching onto the movement too. Aime Leon Dore run of New Balance P550 sneakers channel a similar vintage look with yellow-tinted soles on the tb basketball silhouette.
Foxtrot Uniform who is a “neo-vintage” community are even selling sneaker stained pens and faded Jordan laces with OG wide weave that they say will turn your retros into vintage 85s in 10 mins. They claim they hunt down vintage sneakers and curate an online retail experience for the community to buy them.
This particular take on vintage aesthetics falls in line with the skyrocketing demand for archival and nostalgic pieces that's storming the fashion industry's gates right now. The art of ageing sneakers transports aficionados to a sartorial age that's physically beyond their grasp because of well, the lack of a time machine while enabling them to embrace imperfections.